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Composed, tough in the tackle, and equally effective in the air as he is on the deck, Aston Villa’s Ezri Konsa is well on his way to establishing himself as one of the top centre-backs in the Premier League.
It’s no wonder then that manager Dean Smith signed him for a second time in the space of a year last summer, having also recruited the defender while in the dugout at Brentford.
As is the case with the majority of young players, the step up from the Championship to the top-flight certainly took some getting used to for the 22-year-old.
But it was time he simply didn’t have, with Villa right up against it from the very start upon their promotion via the play-offs in 2019.
They picked up just one win from their first seven games, a worrying trend that continued right until the very last day of the campaign, where a 1-1 draw at West Ham was enough to escape relegation by a single point.
But a lot of worrying signs were highlighted, primarily their 67 goals conceded, the second-highest total in the division behind relegated Norwich.
The new season is, however, providing the Midlands club with a new lease of life.
Long-awaited stability at the back
As seen with the very top sides, a regular goalkeeper and defence is crucial to any form of success, but that certainly wasn’t the case for Villa, with a continuous change between the sticks disrupting any potential rhythm.
Add to that the fact that Konsa was battling it out with Kortney Hause and Bjorn Engels for a spot beside Tyrone Mings, and it’s evident why they struggled to keep the goals out.
But it was Konsa who got the nod more often than not, and that is another trend that has continued into this campaign, with his renewed partnership with Mings producing two clean sheets from two games, with new arrival Emiliano Martinez certainly playing his part in goal.
John Terry influence
Scoring goals may keep supporters entertained, but it’s remaining tight at the back that keeps you in the division.
And no one knows that better than Villa assistant John Terry, who headed in his fair share of goals over the years, but gained his reputation for his stubbornness in defence.
One can only imagine the benefits and experiences Konsa is gaining from the Chelsea legend both on and off the pitch.
Gareth Southgate certainly has a lengthy list of right-backs to choose from, but central defence is a real problem area for the England boss.
He has already turned to Mings, but may just look to the other Villa man in order to boost his options.
Liverpool’s Joe Gomez and Konsa both spent a large chunk of their youth in Charlton’s academy before making their way to the top-flight, and while the former may have already received his call-up, the latter’s may not be too far away.